What is the ESA Academy?

The ESA Academy is ESA's overarching educational programme for university students from ESA Member and Associate States*.  Through a tailored transfer of space know-how and interaction with space professionals, the ESA Academy takes the students through a learning path that enriches their academic education.  As a result, the students can enhance their skills, boost their motivation and ambitions, become acquainted with the standard professional practices applied nowadays in the space sector, and be better prepared for the labour market. 

The ESA Academy is not only open to students that are already running space-related studies in the science and engineering fields. It is also meant to show how space facilities can open a range of new research possibilities and applications to science and engineering students who did not choose space as their education subject, thus opening a new perspective on the learning of space disciplines. 

The ESA Academy is run in close collaboration with European universities and is designed to complement academic education. Its objective is to enhance the students’ educational experience and gain both practical and theoretical know-how and expertise in various disciplines, ranging from space sciences to engineering, space medicine, spacecraft operations, project and risk management, product and quality assurance, standardisation and much more.

Presentation of the ESA Education opportunities for tertiary studentsAccess the image

The two pillars of the ESA Academy

Officially launched in March 2016, the ESA Academy brings together existing and new elements of the ESA Education Programme for universities, now grouped under two interconnected pillars of activity:  

  • Hands-on Space Projects, a continuing programme that enables students to gain first-hand, end-to-end experience of space-related projects. 
  • Training and Learning Programme, a new initiative offering an entirely new set of training courses and learning opportunities. 

In addition to providing access to existing ESA establishments and partners’ infrastructures, the ESA Academy makes use of newly dedicated facilities located at ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium: the Training and Learning Centre, which also hosts an already operational Concurrent Design Facility, and the CubeSat Lab, which will become operational in 2018.

The Hands-on Space Projects 

Since the mid-2000s, ESA has offered university students the opportunity to participate in real space-related projects. Today, these opportunities are grouped under the ESA Academy’s Hands-on Space Projects, a portfolio of recurring programme opportunities ranging from small satellites to scientific and technology experiments. In all cases, students directly experience what it takes to run the full lifecycle of a space project, from conception to operation. 

Satellites for students, built by students 

  • Fly Your Satellite! is the programme supporting  student-built CubeSats- small satellites with a standard mass and size multiple of 1kg and 10 cm per side. At each programme cycle, student teams are supported in the design, integration, and testing of their CubeSat. They learn how to undergo formal technical reviews and, if they achieve readiness for flight, they prepare their satellite for a launch sponsored by ESA, either on a conventional rocket or from the International Space Station. Finally, they operate their satellite in orbit.
    Contact: cubesats @ esa.int

  • ESEO, the European Student Earth Orbiter, is a microsatellite developed, integrated, and tested by European university students under the guidance of ESA and the space industry. 33x33x63 cm in size, and weighing about 45 kg, ESEO will measure radiation levels in low Earth orbit (sun-synchronous) and test technologies for future education satellite missions. Launch is planned for the end of 2017 – beginning of 2018, for a nominal mission duration of six months.
    Contact: eseo @ esa.int
Students during a Fly Your Thesis! campaignAccess the image

Student experiments

Plenty of opportunities and platforms to run student-built experiments and enhance students’ research and engineering skills are offered every year. Experiments in the field of physics, biology, chemistry and biochemistry, geology and atmospheric sciences, material sciences, astrophysics, human physiology,  and technology demonstrations can be proposed.

Gravity-related experiments

  • Fly Your Thesis! : student experiments to be run in microgravity conditions on  Zero-G parabolic flights, operated by Novespace, France. 90 parabolas, each featuring about 20 seconds of weightlessness, per campaign. 
    Contact: flyyourthesis @ esa.int

  • Drop Your Thesis!: student experiments to be run in microgravity conditions using the ZARM Drop Tower, Germany. Five launches, each featuring either 5 or 9 seconds of microgravity, per campaign.
    Contact: dropyourthesis @ esa.int

  • Spin Your Thesis! : student experiments to be run in hypergravity conditions using ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge at ESTEC, Netherlands. Two and a half days per campaign of exclusive access to the centrifuge, experiencing accelerations between 1 and 20 times Earth’s gravity.
    Contact: spinyourthesis @ esa.int   

Experiments on sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons 

  • REXUS/BEXUS : a Swedish (SNSB)/German (DLR) programme, run in collaboration with ESA, allowing student experiments to fly on sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons launched from Esrange, Sweden.
    Contact: rexus-bexus @ esa.int

The Training and Learning Programme

ESA Academy students during a training courseAccess the image

Established in 2016, the ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Programme is meant to offer a varied portfolio of courses given by space professionals from all ESA fields of expertise, as well as from academia and space industry, including:

  • Space engineering
  • Space sciences
  • Space medicine
  • Spacecraft operations and communication
  • Project and risk management
  • Product & quality insurance
  • Standardisation
  • Technology transfer and innovation
  • Mission planning
  • and more

The courses are available to interested science and engineering university students, not only to those that are already engaged in space-related studies. Specific courses are also offered to the student teams participating in the ESA Academy’s Hands-on Space Projects, as they are a perfect complement to their learning experience and can support them in the different phases of their projects.  

Contact: esa.academy @ esa.int

New training facilities

ESA Education staff and student CubeSat teamsAccess the image

The ESA Academy Training and Learning Programme makes use of facilities located at ESA/ESEC located in Redu, Belgium including:  


  • The Training and Learning Centre, hosting training courses typically 4-5 days long; in the future, a virtual e-learning system will also be developed.


  •  The Concurrent Design Facility, or CDF,  an integrated professional system in use by space agencies that will allow students to train in the preliminary design studies of a space mission – or system – and gain direct experience of system engineering design.


Furthermore at ESA/ESEC the development is on-going of the CubeSat Lab, a satellite assembly integration and test facility. As a primary objective, the CubeSat Lab will allow engineering support to university teams engaged in educational CubeSat satellite projects; in the future, the facility may also be available for testing and integration of other student experiments. The CubeSat Lab will be operational in 2018.

Please note that the information detailed above is subject to change without prior notice.

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